AO Saturday: Aga, JJ & Maria In Action
Published January 17, 2014 12:11
MELBOURNE, Australia - Agnieszka Radwanska will look to withstand the challenge of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while Maria Sharapova's form in the wake of the longest match of her career will be a major storyline as the third round of the Australian Open concludes.
Saturday, Third Round
 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #5) vs.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS #30)
Head-to-head: Radwanska leads 3-1
When Agnieszka Radwanska and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova square off, it's usually on a big stage. In fact, even Radwanska's 2006 French Open junior title featured a win over the Russian in the final. In the pro ranks, their match-ups have occurred at Wimbledon, Indian Wells, the US Open and their most recent encounter in last September's Seoul final.
Radwanska is into the third round of a Grand Slam for the ninth straight time and is seeking her seventh straight berth in the fourth round of a Grand Slam. She takes an 18-3 record in Grand Slam third round matches into this tilt, including 4-1 at the Australian Open. She has gotten off to quick starts in her first two matches here, winning each first set 6-0.
Pavlyuchenkova's second round win over Mandy Minella was the 250th of her pro career. If she gets her 251st, that would put the 2006 and 2007 Australian Open junior champion into the fourth round at a major for the first time since the 2011 US Open and the first time ever here. It would also be her 14th Top 10 and sixth Top 5 win.
 Jelena Jankovic (SRB #8) vs. Kurumi Nara (JPN #74)
Head-to-head: Jankovic leads 1-0
Jelena Jankovic has been in terrific form during her 40th straight Grand Slam outing, with her five games allowed through two matches the least of the field. Into the third round of a Grand Slam for the sixth straight time, Jankovic likely won't mind seeing a Japanese opponent across the net from her for the third straight match, as she is 15-1 in her career against Japanese players.
Kurumi Nara's first round win over World No.43 Peng and her second round win over World No.35 Magdalena Rybarikova were her fourth and fifth Top 50 wins, and this will actually be her first match against a Top 10 foe. She is into the third round of a Grand Slam for the second straight major, having lost to Jankovic, interestingly enough, in the third round of the 2013 US Open. If she is able to get revenge for that defeat, it would be Nara's 100th career hardcourt win.
Rod Laver Arena
 Maria Sharapova (RUS #3) vs.  Alizé Cornet (FRA #25)
Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 1-0
Maria Sharapova's toughest opponent on Saturday may be fatigue, as she is coming off the longest match of her career, which is also the longest match of the tournament so far. Her 63 46 108 defeat of Karin Knapp in sweltering conditions lasted three hours and 28 minutes.
"I was up a set and a break and I had many opportunities to finish the match faster, so I would have loved for it to finish faster, but that's what I got and I have to deal with the circumstances," Sharapova said. "I'm a competitor and I worked hard to get through that match. I will have to work just as hard to get through the next ones."
Sharapova takes a 28-6 Grand Slam third round record into her clash with Alizé Cornet, while the Frenchwoman is just 1-7 in such matches. However, the lone win did occur here in 2009 en route to the fourth round - her best Grand Slam showing. Cornet's second round victory over Camila Giorgi didn't approach the length of Sharapova's, but it was far from a cakewalk in lasting two hours and 36 minutes. An upset of World No.3 Sharapova would be the best win of her career, as her one triumph over a Top 5 foe so far came against No.5 Svetlana Kuznetsova at Rome in 2008.
Around the grounds…
Two-time defending champ Victoria Azarenka looks for her 17th straight win here against Yvonne Meusburger, No.10 seed Caroline Wozniacki seeks to avenge a loss to Garbiñe Muguruza and No.13 seed Sloane Stephens aims to reach at least the fourth round at a major for the fifth straight time.